When this column is posted, we will be 59 days away from the 2022 Royal Rumble.
Yes, the countdown to one of the biggest wrestling events of the year is officially on.
With Survivor Series now behind us, the build for the Rumble is already underway, and that also means people are predicting who they think the winners of the men’s and women’s Rumbles will be. It isn’t just random fans thinking about it, either. The official WWE On Fox Twitter account posted a tweet asking fans who they thought would be the Rumble winners if the event were held today (November 27th, the day the tweet was made). As of this second, there are over 1,000 tweets in response to the question, as well as over 300 quote tweet responses.
I’ve been going through a lot of those responses, and also gathering my own thoughts on the matter, and one thing is for absolutely certain in my mind.
WWE has really fucked the last 335 days up.
335 days, of course, is the time that has come and gone since the 2021 Royal Rumble.
We’ve gone all this time since the last Rumble, and who is everybody picking to win the 2022 versions? Either the same ol’ people at the top, or pie-in-the-sky picks that have only slightly better odds of winning the Royal Rumble than I do.
The Royal Rumble hasn’t always been a launching pad for wrestlers to become major players in the company, but it certainly has happened a lot. Yokozuna (1993), Shawn Michaels (1995 & 1996), “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (1997 & 1998), Chris Benoit (2004), Batista (2005), Rey Mysterio (2006), Alberto Del Rio (2011), Roman Reigns (2015), Shinsuke Nakamura (2018), Asuka (2018), Drew McIntyre (2020) and Bianca Belair (2021) are among the names who either used a Rumble victory to become a World Champion or at least to be elevated to the main event scene.
Right now, who are the two most popular selections on social media to win the 2022 Rumble? Drew McIntyre and Bianca Belair. Behind those two, the most popular picks are, in no particular order, Sasha Banks, Asuka and Brock Lesnar. Do you know what those three have in common? They don’t need to win the Royal Rumble. That’s what.
With the rumor coming out that Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes will have their AEW contracts expire “soon” and that they have yet to re-sign, there’s a lot of pipe dreams out there for one of those two to be a surprise entrant in the Rumble and win it.
Folks… I’m sitting here in reality, and I beg you to join me. Why in thee red hell would anyone seriously expect either Rhodes or Omega to leave AEW and go to WWE? C’mon, son!
Going back to the picks that are actually on the WWE roster at the moment, they make sense if you’re able to separate who you think will win and who you think should win. Drew McIntyre was clearly moved to Smackdown in the Draft so that he can feud with Roman Reigns. We’re a month away from WWE’s next event on THE COCK, and Reigns already has his next challenger for the Universal Title. I’m not saying Reigns vs Sami Zayn is going to be on the Day 1 card, but would it surprise anyone if it did? Even if the match happens on Smackdown at some point ahead of Day 1, it wouldn’t take much work to keep Reigns and McIntyre apart for a bit. Reigns is a heel. All he needs to do is be a heel. You know… say he’s already defeated McIntyre on multiple occasions. WrestleMania 35? Reigns pinned McIntyre. Stomping Grounds 2019? Reigns pinned McIntyre. Survivor Series 2020? Reigns made McIntyre pass out. With that history, Reigns can easily say McIntyre doesn’t deserve a shot at the title. McIntyre then wins the Rumble, and Reigns can’t duck him any longer.
You know what’s sad? Take a guess as to what the scenario would be for Bianca Belair winning the Rumble, and see if it sounds familiar to something I just typed.
Bianca Belair was clearly moved to Raw in the Draft so that she can continue her feud with Becky Lynch. We’re a month away from WWE’s next event on THE COCK, and Lynch already has her next challenger for the Raw Women’s Title. I’m not saying Lynch vs Liv Morgan is going to be on the Day 1 card, but would it surprise anyone if it did? Even with that match happening on Raw ahead of Day 1, it wouldn’t take much work to keep Lynch and Belair apart for a bit. Lynch is (technically) a heel. All she needs to do is be a heel. You know… say she’s already defeated Belair on multiple occasions. SummerSlam 2021? Lynch pinned Belair in 26 seconds. Crown Jewel 2021? Lynch pinned Sasha Banks, but Belair was in the match, as well. November 1st episode of Raw? Lynch pinned Belair. With that history, Lynch can easily say Belair doesn’t deserve a shot at the title. Belair then wins the Rumble, and Lynch can’t duck her any longer.
Did you see any similarities?
Even if one, or both, of those scenarios don’t play out (or at least don’t play out exactly as I laid them out), it speaks to the lazy booking that has plagued WWE for… a pretty lengthy period of time now. If you want to take it a step further, go ahead and figure out the scenario that would get Brock Lesnar to win the Rumble.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Figure it out?
Where the hell do we go from here, though? WWE is obviously running out of time to put forth another option and have it not only make sense, but be believable. No offense to Rick Boogs, but if he wins the Royal Rumble, tables all over the world will be flipped.
I’d like to see Cesaro win the Rumble, but I just don’t see him getting a major push like that from a company that has avoided pulling the trigger on him time and time again when they’ve had the chance to do so. King Woods might be a fun option, but I think there’s a bit of a ceiling on the “King” gimmick. I’ve seen some people say that Riddle would be a good choice, and it usually involves Riddle’s win being the moment that officially leads to the split of RK-Bro. AJ Styles, Bobby Lashley, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston all have their own logical reasons behind a potential Rumble win.
If it were up to me, things would really clash with WWE’s booking. I think a great, great story can be told about a Rumble winner that hasn’t exactly been treated well by WWE booking in a while. This person has an 8-15 record in televised non-tag matches in 2021. His 2020 was better, but not by much, finishing with an 11-10 record in those same non-tag matches. He did have a 37-day reign as the Intercontinental Champion last year, though, so there’s that. The thing with this particular person is that he is loved. I mean… loved. I don’t care if WWE is in a big city or a smaller town. When this guy’s music hits and he shows up, crowds go nuts for him, even after all these years.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m referring to none other than Jeff Hardy.
Hardy is one of the rare “bulletproof” wrestlers in WWE that can lose a bunch of matches and not lose much of anything with live crowds. Even at the age of 44, he is more than capable of having really entertaining matches, and he’s still willing to put his health and safety on the line to get those crazy crowd pops. On top of everything else, though… Jeff Hardy has never been in the ring with Roman Reigns. Not in a singles match, tag match, multi-man match… not even a Royal Rumble.
I’ve said it before, but there’s something extra special about first-time ever matches these days when it comes to WWE. This is a company that wants to spam rematch after rematch after rematch, sprinkling in tag matches here and there for fun. We’ve seen just about every “big match” in WWE at least once. Not Roman Reigns vs Jeff Hardy. You can’t tell me that isn’t something attractive to a man like Vince McMahon.
When you look at the opponents that Roman Reigns has defeated in this historic title reign of his, you’ll find people who are bigger than Jeff Hardy. You’ll find people who are stronger, faster and younger than Jeff Hardy. What you’re not going to find are people with more heart than Jeff Hardy, as well as that aforementioned gives-no-fucks style in the ring that Jeff Hardy has. That makes “The Charismatic Enigma” a very real and very dangerous threat to Reigns. I don’t care that Jeff was losing to people like Mustafa Ali and Veer on episodes of Main Event earlier this year. If you give him some wins on television, and WWE is doing just that recently, nobody will care about all that other stuff.
Let’s shake things up a bit. If we’re not going to get Reigns going one… on one… with The Great One at WrestleMania, then why not have him go up against someone for the first time ever that will have the 100,000+ fans at AT&T Stadium going nuts? It has already been teased a bit, so let’s just go all the way with it.
As far as the women are concerned, I think there’s a name that people have been forgetting about, but that’s because we haven’t seen her for a while. The last time we saw this woman, she was unsuccessful in her attempt to win Money In The Bank back in July. Asuka has been on the sidelines with some sort of arm injury, so I guess there should be an asterisk listed here, as we don’t know if she’ll be able to return to the ring before the Rumble. We don’t really know anything, because there haven’t been any sort of updates on her condition outside of this picture that she tweeted out three months ago…
No, Asuka isn’t exactly an up-and-coming wrestler looking to find her big break in WWE. She does present, however, an intriguing option for a heel Becky Lynch to face at WrestleMania. We’ve seen Asuka and Becky face each other before, but we’ve never seen this Becky go to battle with what could be the meanest, hungriest and most dangerous version of Asuka we’ve seen in a long time as she returns after an extended absence.
WWE’s weird booking of the women on the roster doesn’t leave me with a lot of confidence in a lot of their chances come Rumble time. There have been four Women’s Royal Rumble matches in history. One of them was won by Belair, who many feel is the odds-on favorite to win in 2022. Another was won by Asuka, who I just mentioned here. The other two were won by… the current Raw Women’s Champion and the current Smackdown Women’s Champion. There’s the upper tier in the women’s division, and then it seems like there’s a huge drop until you get to the rest of the pack. Again, the added evidence to that is the other two “favorites” to win the 2022 Rumble that I keep seeing over and over… Sasha Banks and Bayley. Of course, Bayley is a huge question mark, as she’s still out of action after having knee surgery back in July. Initial reports were that she would be out for nine months, which might not even have her return to the ring before WrestleMania, let alone the Royal Rumble.
I’ll say it again… there’s the top talents in the women’s division, and then it’s a very long drop until you get to the rest of the women. That’s pretty much how WWE has pushed things since the Four Horsewomen arrived on the scene. You’ll get someone like Ronda Rousey, who broke that “spell” for a while, but it’s rare. I don’t care how much you like and support people like Liv Morgan, Naomi, Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler, Toni Storm and the rest of them. WWE has basically driven it into our heads that they just aren’t as good as Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley and now Bianca Belair.
Anyway, that’s a different argument for a different column.
Jeff Hardy wins the 2022 Men’s Royal Rumble.
Asuka wins the 2022 Women’s Royal Rumble.
Roman Reigns vs Jeff Hardy for the Universal Title at WrestleMania 38.
Becky Lynch vs Asuka for the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania 38.
Without necessarily saying that those are my actual predictions, I’m turning it over to you out there in ReaderLand. What are your thoughts on Jeff Hardy and Asuka winning? Who do you think will end up being the winners if it isn’t them? Who do you want the winners to be? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- CM Punk & MJF’s Promo Battle: I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but this sure seemed like the longest promo segment in AEW history, didn’t it? Both men were able to land some pretty heavy shots, but if I had to pick, I would say Punk came out on top here. He was a lot more consistent in what he was saying. MJF lost some points with me after his “your breath smells like shit because you kiss so much ass” lines that just came across as lame.
- The Battle Of Los Angeles Is Back: Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s huge tournament makes a triumphant return in 2022 after COVID caused it to be shelved in 2020 and 2021. From 2005 to 2019, just about everyone that has been somebody in the non-WWE wrestling world has participated in these things. With so much talent out there right now, the 2022 tournament should be another special one.
- Edge & Miz’s Promo Battle: This one won’t get as much attention as Punk and MJF, and rightfully so. It wasn’t like Punk and MJF, where it was supposed to come across as two men “shooting” back and forth. Yes, there were a couple lines here and there that had the crowd responding, but Edge and Miz played it a lot closer to a “normal” WWE promo. Especially Miz. Edge was able to get some zingers in, but he was also very Edge-like for a lot of it. I do like that he was able to use a chunk of his promo time putting Miz over, though. That will help this feud moving forward.
- Kay Lee Ray vs Dakota Kai: As is tradition, NXT is having a War Games event. Also tradition is NXT holding Ladder Matches to help determine which team in War Games gets the advantage. It’s a pretty significant risk to put people in a Ladder Match mere days away from them competing in War Games, but what do I know? This was a lot of fun. The usual brutal action in these types of matches, and it actually gave KLR an opportunity to really shine in front of the NXT 2.0 audience, many of whom haven’t had many chances to see her.
- Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins: Television matches that don’t make it to the ten-minute mark are often forgettable, as they tend to blend into the background a bit. I’m not saying this one was an all-time classic or anything, but the level of intensity that Balor and Rollins brought to this one made it stand out.
- Eddie Kingston vs Daniel Garcia: When wrestling promotions get a big enough roster, they run into the “good type of problem to have” situation where there are so many wrestlers who deserve pushes, but not everyone can win all the time. Eddie Kingston is someone who deserves to win a lot more than he does in AEW. Daniel Garcia is someone who has a really bright future and should be showcasing that by picking up some wins in AEW. Something had to give here, but the right man won. Kingston has a lot going for him right now.
- Riho vs Dr. Britt Baker, DMD: I dig the story that was being told here. If Riho won the match, she would earn herself a future shot at Britt’s AEW Women’s Title. Baker has been damn near unbeatable for a while now, but if there’s an Achilles’ Heel there, it’s Riho. Ol’ Doc Smiley lost to Riho on an episode of Dynamite in October 2019, and then got pinned by Riho in a Fatal Four-Way on an episode of Dynamite in January 2020. Having Riho win again here made sense to further both of those stories. Now she gets a title shot, and the “Riho has Britt’s number” narrative continues on.
- Cody Rhodes, Lucha Brothers & Pac vs Malakai Black, Andrade El Idolo & FTR: I’ve said it a million times by now, but any time you’re going to see more than four people involved in the same match in AEW, expect some wildness. This was no different. A really fun eight-man tag.
- Liv Morgan & Becky Lynch’s Promo Battle: I enjoyed this, but at the same time, it was also really weird to me. Liv got to show a lot of fire and passion, and that’s good. However, the face making fun of the heel for showing real emotion, in a world of overly phony and scripted promos, didn’t really work for me. I think a lot of the crowd agreed with me, as they didn’t really react as if it were a major “aha, gotcha” moment for Liv. A minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.
- Omos: The Undertaker has come out and said that Omos is the closest thing we’ve seen to Andre The Giant since Andre himself. That’s some ridiculously high praise. Look… I don’t care if you agree or disagree with what Taker said. That’s not the point here. Neither is your personal opinion about The Undertaker as a wrestler or Mark Callaway as a man. The point is that Taker is one of the most respected names in the history of the wrestling business, surpassed by only a few, but Andre The Giant is one of them. For Taker to make a comparison to Andre… well, that carries a lot of weight. Does that mean Omos is going to be the WWE Champion any day now? No, not necessarily. I’m just saying that people take notice when The Undertaker speaks up.
- Big E vs Kevin Owens: The match itself was good. No surprise there. It was a really stupid way for Owens to be added to the WWE Title match at Day 1, though. Rollins attacking Owens, causing a disqualification, when Rollins knew a win for Owens would have him added to the title match, was dumb. Seth flipping out after the match result was announced was even dumber. Broham… you spent the entire match at the commentary table, trying to will Big E to victory so that you could have a one-on-one match at Day 1, then you ruined that for yourself, and then you couldn’t figure out why it happened.
- Orange Cassidy & Yuta Wheeler vs Adam Cole & Bobby Fish: People need to stop complaining about Adam Cole’s place on the AEW card. I know that it’s mainly the same fucking morons on Twitter that complain about everything AEW does, but still… he’s doing just fine. Not everyone is in the main event at the same time. Let’s not act like Cole is miserable hanging out and traveling with some of his best friends, not to mention his girlfriend, while performing in front of larger and louder crowds than what he had been performing in front of recently. Stop it.
- Kofi Kingston & Mustafa Ali: Kofi and his wife welcomed their third child (and first daughter) into the world. Mustafa and his wife welcomed their third child into the world. Congratulations to both men and their families.
- Johnny Gargano vs Bron Breakker: As evidenced by this match making my rankings at all, I wouldn’t say it was a bad match. It was certainly nowhere near the KLR vs Dakota match, though. That’s fine. It didn’t have to be. My main question is why NXT continues to drop hints and make mentions about Bron’s family if they aren’t just going to give him the Steiner name. He could’ve been Bron Steiner. Rex Steiner was an even better option. Cut the bullshit.
- Sami Zayn: Sami Zayn, you’re the next contestant to be steamrolled by Roman Reigns! Come on down!
This Week’s Playlist: “The Grand Finale 2021” by Page Kennedy, The Game, Royce Da 5’9, Locksmith, KXNG Crooked, Grafh, 3d Na’tee, Mysonne & Ransom… “Hot Fe Me” by Yellowman… “Traps” by Bloc Party… “Never Say” by Jac Ross… “Destructible” by Siiickbrain… “Just Breathing” by NEFFEX… “Free Me” by 42 Dugg… “Dough” by Key Glock… “Streets” by Doja Cat… “Cry For Help” by Rick Astley… “The Wire” by HAIM… “St. Elmo’s Fire” by John Parr… “Khaki Suit” by Damian Marley, Bounty Killer & Eek-A-Mouse… “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton… “Something New” by Wiz Khalifa & Ty Dolla $ign… “Froggy Style” by Nuttin’ Nyce… “Make You Believe” by Dead Eyes… “The Rain” by Smash Into Pieces… “Storytime” by Nightwish… “Amaranth” by Nightwish… “Nemo” by Nightwish… “Wish I Had An Angel” by Nightwish… “While Your Lips Are Still Red” by Nightwish… “Our Truth” by Lacuna Coil… “Hey Jealousy” by Gin Blossoms